Death, it seems, is bad for the environment. Coffins, most of which are made from nonbiodegradable chipboard, take up valuable land space. Even when coffins are biodegradable, embalming liquid contaminates the soil with its cancer-causing liquids. Cremation, where human remains are burned at over 1,500°F, comes with its own problems. According University of Melbourne professor Roger Short, the process can create up to 350 pounds of greenhouse gases per corpse.
Marina Kamenev reporting on burial alternatives in TIME magazine, offers a so-called “green” solution from Australia: aquamation. Aquamation Industries offers a cheaper, more earth-friendly method of body disposal. Aquamation is a process by which a body is dipped in a potassium-hydroxide-and-water solution. After some time, the skeleton is all that remains. Soft bones are then crushed and mixed with household chemicals. The procedure reportedly uses only 5% to 10% of the energy that cremation uses. John Humphries, a former funeral-home director is now the chief executive of Aquamation Industries. He says that after the whole process is completed, the mixture is given to the family of the deceased. Humphries acknowledges that the bodily remains are safe enough to pour on the rose bushes around one’s house.
There are those, as you might imagine, who take issue with the aquamation process. Kevin Hartley, spokesman for the Natural Earth Burial Society in South Australia, advocates more natural burials. Cemetery space is limited and the funeral industry is expensive, Hartley maintains, but believes human burial is better way to care for a person’s loved ones. No matter how you gloss it up, Hartley contends, the aquamation process still involves boiling someone’s loved one away; not a pretty picture. For his part, chief executive of Aquamation, John Humphries, intends to be aquamated when he dies. “Since being involved in the industry, I think it’s a really nice way to go,” he says. “But before I started this business, I never really gave it much thought. I didn’t care what anyone did with me — I would be dead.”
And it strikes me, as I read these words aloud again, that Mr. Humphries, TIME magazine, and perhaps most who read the story missed the point entirely. Death isn’t bad for the environment. Death is bad for us. The question that should haunt humans is not “how shall my death impact the earth?” rather “how shall my life on earth impact my death?” Am I responsible for what I do on earth before I die? As theologian R. C. Sproul has said for years, “Right now, counts forever.” A writer 2000 years ago summarizes the issue: “It is appointed unto people once to die and after this, the judgment.” For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.
Mark believes that life is best lived when we are driven to think about death. His students at Crossroads Bible College hear this all the time.